The Dolphins will pay tribute to perfection Sunday. And greatness.
More specifically, they will honor the team recently selected as the greatest team of all time: the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
The only team in NFL history to go through a regular season and playoffs without a blemish, the 1972 Dolphins earned the No. 1 spot on the NFL 100's list of the Greatest Teams of All Time. They were selected by an 80-person blue-ribbon panel comprised of experts selected by The Associated Press and NFL Media.
It's an honor worth celebrating, and that's just what the organization will be doing at halftime of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.
More than 30 members of that 1972 team, including Hall of Fame Head Coach Don Shula, will be on hand for the ceremony.
"It's always special to be around the guys who came together to accomplish what no other team in the 100-year history of the NFL has ever done — the perfect season," Shula said. "It's only fitting as the League closes out this milestone season that the 1972 Dolphins are officially recognized with an honor that we always knew was true — that they are the greatest team in NFL history."
The list of former players expected to be at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday includes Hall of Famers Larry Csonka, Bob Griese and Larry Little, as well as former assistant coach Howard Schnellenberger and Tim Robbie, the son of original Dolphins owner Joe Robbie.
Other players from the 1972 team expected to attend the ceremony Sunday include Dick Anderson, Charlie Babb, Larry Ball, Marlin Briscoe, Doug Crusan, Tom Curtis, Jim Del Gaizo, Vern Den Herder, Manny Fernandez, Marv Fleming, Tim Foley, Hubert Ginn, Al Jenkins, Ed Jenkins, Curtis Johnson, Jim Kiick, Howard Kindig, Mike Kolen, Maulty Moore, Mercury Morris, Lloyd Mumphord, Karl Noonan, Larry Seiple, Otto Stowe and Doug Swift.
"This is a special group of guys who unselfishly worked together and accomplished the perfect season, a mark that has never been matched in the 100 years of the NFL," said Kiick, who was part of perhaps the greatest running back trio in league history along with Csonka and Morris. "We always have a great time when we get together, but this is a special reunion as we celebrate being recognized as the greatest team ever in the history of the League."
Each player will be recognized at halftime Sunday and will be presented with a personalized golden football commemorating the 1972 Dolphins being selected as the greatest team in NFL history.
That 1972 Dolphins team began the season with a 20-10 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in a rematch of their classic Christmas Day overtime playoff game the previous season and ended it with a 14-7 victory against the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
"We were a bunch of no-names who came together to form a perfect team," said Swift. "It's been an honor to be part of this team and have it recognized for what it is — the greatest team in the history of pro football. I know we'll have a great time when we get together this weekend and remember what it took to accomplish this feat. I'm sure we'll also take the time to remember those great teammates and friends we've lost in the past year."
The Dolphins organization indeed mourned the loss of three key members of that 1972 team this year — Nick Buoniconti, Bob Kuechenberg and Jim Langer.
Buoniconti and Langer were among the six future Hall of Fame players on that team, along with Griese, Csonka, Little and wide receiver Paul Warfield. Shula, of course, also wound up in the Hall of Fame, as did the team's director of player personnel that year, Bobby Beathard.
"I'm proud to have been a captain on what is now recognized as the greatest team in the history of the League," Little said. "We were often imitated but never duplicated. This group came together from different backgrounds to form a perfect team. We were the greatest team in the first 100 years of the League and I'm hopeful we'll still be the only ones still standing as a perfect team when they celebrate the next 100 years."
The 1972 Dolphins wrapped up their regular season with a 16-0 victory against the Baltimore Colts, becoming the first team in NFL history to go 14-0, and that was followed by playoff victories against the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington.
The Dolphins finished No. 1 in the NFL in 1972 in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense and total defense, something that had never been done before and hasn't been done since.
The Dolphins had two other teams included in the NFL 100's Greatest Teams list. The 1973 team, which went 12-2 and won a second consecutive Super Bowl, was ranked 28th; the 1984 team, which went 14-2 and went to the Super Bowl, came in at number 63.
The 1972 Dolphins beat out the 1985 Chicago Bears for top honors, with the rest of the top five featuring the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers, the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the 1989 49ers.
"The Miami Dolphins that had a perfect season from start to finish, from the first game to the Super Bowl rates, I think it's fairly obvious, there's no question, it's the No. 1 team," Csonka said on NFL Network. "I don't care how many times the other teams dominated, did things, they lost a frickin' game. Perfection is perfection. Close? Get a cigar. There's only team that drinks the champagne.
"Perfection is perfection. Not shades of perfection. Perfection."
What made the 1972 Dolphins so special is that they embodied the definition of "team," right down to the make-up of the roster.
Sure, there were first-round picks like Griese, Csonka and former defensive end Bill Stanfill, but there also was a collection of late-round picks or undrafted players who went on to play key roles — some who even went on to Hall of Fame careers.
That list included players like Langer, Little, Buoniconti, Swift, tackle Norm Evans, defensive tackle Manny Fernandez and linebacker Mike Kolen.
"I was truly blessed," Fernandez said. "To be signed as a free agent with the worst team in the AFL and then to be part of what became the best team ever is truly a blessing. Thanks to all my teammates and coaches for making it possible. They were and still are the best. For the NFL to recognize this team as the greatest in the 100-year history of the NFL is, in a word, 'perfect' "
And it's perfect for the organization to honor this greatest team Sunday when they close out their 2019 home schedule.